Harrowing Of Hell
June 12, 2022

Trinity Sunday

The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel

This Gospel presents the Trinity as a way of understanding God for, with, and in us and of understanding ourselves for, with, and in God as siblings  (1:12-13) who have seen what it means to be children of God in Jesus (1:14)   We are assigned this Gospel today, because it is Trinity Sunday.   Now, I trust you have had many a good sermon on this topic, the Trinity.  Most all of them, all present company included, most assuredly are wiser, smarter, and far more eloquent than I can be on the subject, but today it is my task and so I will take it up. 

My approach today is to speak of the Trinity far less from what some might think of as the theological angle, and instead look more at the more spiritual, and even more specifically perhaps, the relational angle.  You might say this sermon is a bit more sentimental, then theological.  I guess, as with all sermons, you, the hearer, will be the judge of that in the end.  

One of the most amazing things to me, one reason I so love Christianity and this way of following our God, is this very reality, the Trinity.   Three in One.  Confusing to so many, some even suggesting we muddied the waters with the concept.  Some other faiths actually calling us idolatrous or heretical for suggesting it, but I am standing with you to day to say I believe it is one of the key concepts of our Christian faith, our walk with God, and most of all,  the very model for how we are to live this faith, today and always.     

In Christianity, God is not just one, God is a relationship, within itself, and that is foundational to everything we believe, and for that I Give thanks. 

And with that comes a very specific call on all of us that are part of this faith, to honor, to nurture, to search out, and to build and maintain relationship.   It is a view of the deity that calls us collectively into communion with that deity and with each other.  In between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just names, and yes, these names are fraught with the frailty and the limits of our language, as would be true with any language.   Those three words, Father Son and Holy Spirit are comforting to many, and frightening, we have to acknowledge, to some. 

Those limiting words, come laden with a lot of human baggage, as all words do, when pointing to our Creator, so they are imperfect, and even though we use them to denote the Trinity,  I would make the case, that what is important are not the specific words we use to mark it, but instead that this deity, in this way, the circle it creates, exists, is real, and is part of what leads us in following that Creator.  

To me,  it is the classical Christian doctrine that might be most closely aligned, most relevant to assess in light of our current journey with racial justice and racial inequality in this Church and in this society, in light of all of the discontent, the division.

As one commentator said of this passage, “

for Christians, it is how God moves, relates, dances, and manifests Godself in the world—always through relations. In many ways, the Trinity is an entanglement that keeps unfolding back and forth, a sign and metaphor for our own ways of living together, being different and yet being a part of the same life.

God, humans, other beings, the earth, the rivers and oceans, the air—everything is a big relation of deep belonging and entanglements. In other words, I cannot understand God if I do not know the earth. I cannot understand human beings outside of the life of other beings: animals, vegetables, and minerals.

Thus, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the redeemer of this world is also the Spirit of God fully alive in the “natural” world, which is not to be understood apart from the “cultural” world. For nature and culture are one thing, just like the Trinity. (Working Preacher, May 30, 2021, Internet, https://www.workingpreacher.org/authors/claudio-carvalhaes)

That’s the lesson and message of the Trinity.  Let’s hear it again, “for Christians, it is how God moves, relates, dances, and manifests Godself in the world—always through relations.”  Such an important concept.    

For Christians, I would argue this is unique.  We relate to God, through our relationships with one another.    

Even our God is a relationship. 

So, I think it is very important for us to acknowledge that for us right now, and for some time, in the Church, in this Country, many things divide us.  We are not fully in relationship right now, and I could argue we rarely are, but we have to also acknowledge, it is in a pretty sad shape right now.   

We are, as a Church, as a society, out of balance, not in true relation. 

In some ways, being human, we never are, why?  Well, because we are human?  But, for us Christians, essentially, the reality of that, is not, or should not, be good enough for us.  

The eternity God dreams for us, is not something that happens someday, but instead is pervasive in the midst of our relationships here and now.  

We really need to be honest about that.  You can’t get well if you don’t own the reality that you are sick.   Not as a person, not as a family, not as a Church, not as a country.    

It is not about judgement on that, it is simply what is, and for us as Christians, the people of the relational God, the three persons, the Trinity, it is not our Way, it is not our Gospel.  We should never settle for it. 

The Trinity is a sign of balance, of relationship, of wholeness.  It is a holy metaphor for what we are called to be as a community, the beloved community.   We, and I include myself in this folks, we are out of balance, we are, in too many ways, out of relationship, and we certainly have not attained wholeness.   In short, we all have work to do.   

And this Gospel today, this celebration of our Triune God,  a God which is about relationship and in fact is a relationship in and of itself, is our guide. 

These vows those stepping forward today are taking are all about this, bringing balance, entering into relationship, living in such a way as to reveal Christ to those you encounter.  

Because the good news is, this is Gospel work, it is exactly what this triune God, this God of relationship calls us to.   And I am convinced, should we be bold enough, brave enough, committed enough to do it, we will more fully know a relationship in balance, and the blessing will extend to every person, to every creature, to all of creation, because we are absolutely blessedly, entangled, connected, part of each other.   That is the message and the challenge of the Holy Trinity.

And should we take up that challenge I believe, without a doubt, it will absolutely help us, The Body of Christ, look, feel, act more like the beloved Community this Trinity, this God of relationship, this God that is relationship calls us to. 

If we can do that, we will have much good to share with this Church, and with our world.   I dare say we can change it.    May it be so. 

My beloved, I have said these words to you in the name of the beloved Trinity, the God of and in relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.